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Posted on  

July 11, 2003

Ethanol plant goes to Lancaster County

Daily Record staff
Friday, July 11, 2003

Paul McPherson is disappointed that Penn-Mar Ethanol has decided not to build its 55-million-gallon ethanol production plant within the borders of York County.
But the owner of Maple Lawn Farms in Fawn Township said he can’t deny the economics involved in Penn-Mar Ethanol breaking ground in Conoy Township in Lancaster County.

In May, Penn-Mar Ethanol signed an option agreement with Lancaster County Solid Waste Management to buy 65 acres as a site for the $80 million plant, said Scott Welsh, project manager for the group.

In June, Penn-Mar’s seven-member board of directors voted to abandon other sites in York and Adams counties to pursue the tract of land in Conoy Township. Conoy Township is across the Susquehanna River from York County, just north of Marietta.

The company plans to settle and acquire the necessary environmental and zoning permits within the next six months. Plant construction would begin early next year with the project taking one year to complete.

Ethanol produced by the plant would be sold to petroleum companies as an environmentally friendly additive to gasoline. Ethanol is a renewable fuel that increases octane and can be used to meet clean-air regulations by helping to reduce automobile emissions.

Penn-Mar is considering buying steam from the nearby Lancaster County Solid Waste Management incinerator to help power the plant, Welsh said.

“That should help cut our natural gas costs,” said Brian Utz, a co-founder of Penn-Mar.

“With that steam, we can use about one-third of natural gas that a typical ethanol plant that size would use.”

The Conoy Township site offers main line rail service that can carry 75 train cars of corn grain — roughly 300,000 bushels of corn — to the plant every eight days, he said. York County could offer about 15 to 20 cars every eight days.

“We’re saving about $1 million a year with that main line rail service,” Utz said. “That’s money we don’t have to earn.”

About 66 percent of the corn grain used to make ethanol will hail from about 30 to 40 suppliers throughout the Midwest, Welsh said.

Penn-Mar will buy the remaining 6 million to 7 million bushels of corn needed to run the plant from farmers in southcentral Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, he said.

A majority of the corn grown in the region is used by dairy and livestock farmers as animal feed.

“We did not want to overtax the local supply,” Welsh said.

Lancaster County uses most of its corn to feed its large livestock market, said Leon Ressler, extension director for Lancaster County. At times, the county has had to import its corn grain to satisfy its livestock feed need.

As the new plant provides grain farmers with another avenue to sell their corn, it might help push up the price of grain.

“If you’re a farmer who buys corn for feed, this will bump up the price a bit and that’s a negative,” Ressler said. “If you sell corn, that’s a positive. I don’t see this project being price neutral.”

The plant will also produce dried distillers grain — a high-protein food ingredient that farmers commonly feed to cattle.

Carbon dioxide used for food processing and by the soft drink industry will also flow from the plant.

The ethanol, dry-distillers grain and carbon dioxide will be sold within 100 miles of the plant, Welsh said.

The 35 new jobs needed for the plant will not be in York County, but the project should help the corn market, said Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus.

“The York County farming community drove this project,” he said. “It keeps agriculture ventures profitable.”


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